National Endowment for the Arts doubles backing for The Forgotten Kingdom — Sand Stories with second award


National Endowment for the Arts Acting Chairman Mary Anne Carter has approved more than $27 million in grants as part of the Arts Endowment’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2019.  Included in this announcement is a second Art Works award for The Forgotten Kingdom — Sand Stories for the continued collaboration between sand artist Kseniya Simonova and Guy Mendilow Ensemble. The project is commissioned by Arts Are Essential, committed to providing arts experiences that increase understanding and acceptance of the diverse cultures of our world

Art Works is the Arts Endowment’s principal grantmaking program. The agency received 1,605 Art Works applications for this round of grantmaking, and will award 972 grants in this category. 

“The arts enhance our communities and our lives, and we look forward to seeing these projects take place throughout the country, giving Americans opportunities to learn, to create, to heal, and to celebrate,” said Mary Anne Carter, acting chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

“It is a tremendous honour to receive this continued, and increased, support from the NEA,” says Guy Mendilow, Director of Music and Education for the Guy Mendilow Ensemble and the creator of The Forgotten Kingdom. “This national organization is making possible an international collaboration shining light on women’s stories from a corner of the world about which we may know little, but that are relevant and timely for us here, today.”

“Had this been just a cultural preservation effort, it would have sufficed,” says Jean Butler, founder of Arts Are Essential, the commissioning organization. “But The Forgotten Kingdom does not only look to the past. It uses evocative music and story to ignite imaginations, stirring resonance with debates and struggles in our moment.”


The Forgotten Kingdom — Sand Stories brings to life Sephardi women's voices lost to war. Simonova creates, morphs and obliterates sand imagery in real-time, crafting a flowing narrative driven by the Ensemble's evocative music and radio drama-style storytelling.

Weaving together early 20th-century women’s songs from Sephardic enclaves of the former Ottoman Empire, the show evokes a panorama of the unraveling of an older Mediterranean world — not with the distant textbook hindsight we have today, but with the visceral experience of ordinary people caught in the extraordinary upheaval, unaware of how the dots will connect. 

With song lyrics in Ladino, an endangered blend of archaic Spanish with Turkish and Greek, together with English narration, with heart and humour, the show renders scenes of daily life from WWI and the Ottoman Empire’s collapse to the glimmers of democratic hopes crushed by fascist regimes that cloaked entire communities in a ‘shroud of oblivion.’

For more information on this National Endowment for the Arts grant announcement, visit

Guy Mendilow